The Prestigious HVTT

Thursday, March 22, 2012

 

By Kelly Cordes

Mar 6, 2012

Breathe, kick, breathe, glide, kick… Or something like that. I’d lost track – not that I knew what I was doing to begin with – by the time I caught my friend Michael on the first hill. Silent Mike we call him, because he doesn’t say anything. He’d just returned to Estes, just in time for a time trial. “Michael dude, I gotta tell ya I’m just so impressed.” Kick, breathe, talk. “I mean, you gotta be hurtin’ bro, coming from sea level and all? But you’re still out here, trying. You must feel like you’re dragging a lead weight.” Silent Mike shot me a sort of sideways glance and stayed silent. He almost smiled. “Me, I could go this pace all day – but you, whew. Lookin’ good, Mike, keep it up.” Only thing I didn’t do was pat him on the ass with my ski pole. 

Welcome to the Prestigious Hidden Valley Time Trial – the HVTT. Gloat when you win, throw a tantrum when you lose. Or, at least, come up with excuses. Problem is, none of us knows a damned thing about skiing. We’re all climbers. We’re the Skimo equivalent of a bunch of kids who just watched Cliffhanger and decided they were going to do a climbing race.

I think Wharton started it, that competitive bastard. Me, I’m just in it for the experience.

One of the great cliches in the climbing world goes like this: “Ahhh, bro, I’m not competitive. I’m just in it for the experience.” I know what people mean – indeed, what truly matters, what we are all after, is that feelingthat hard-to-describe sensation of the world falling away, when nothing matters but the moment, surrounded by spectacular mountains. And competence usually magnifies that experience. It’s why we’re driven. It feels good. Also worth noting: An enormous difference exists between being competitive and being a competitive jerk.

Anyway, a few notes about the Prestigious HVTT:

• Start at the conservation sign at the old Hidden Valley ski area in Rocky Mountain National Park, at about 9,400', and finish at that one clump of trees in the upper bowl around 11,000'. Self-report your time. Uphill only. It’s a safety precaution. None of us will wear a helmet (too heavy), and while Wharton’s a good skier and Tommy’s OK, I suck. I’m already a walking train wreck, with six surgeries in a recent 13-month span. I imagine bombing-down at full speed, out of control (“must...beat...Tommy!”), and trees…not good.

• Holy gasket-blower. In my [current…] PR effort, I averaged 178 bpm, 95% of my max HR, for 28:19. Unable to talk schmack. Coughed up a lung for the next week. I told the guys that if I have a heart attack, just pull me off the course so I don’t screw-up the skin track.

• My technique sucks so bad I might as well be wearing snowshoes with the glide I get. At least I know how to suffer. Interesting note: Throughout my life I’ve noticed an inverse relationship between skill required on a given task and my performance. We’re all special in our own ways.

• Participation seems to ebb and flow. One buddy reported his time with the comment: “Good lord. Gave this a first go today. Brutal. I managed a quiet ‘Fuck you, Josh Wharton’ before blacking out at the tree.” That’s the spirit! Another reported that he “coughed-up some bong resin left over from high school.” Haven’t heard from him since. Yet some rangers have taken unfortunate notice to our recent “events.”

• During one flow, our friend Walker Ferguson was in town. He’s won gold, silver and bronze world championship medals in mountain biking and cyclocross, and rode for a pro racing team for seven years. Josh invited him to TT with us, and I asked Josh what the hell was he thinking? “I’d rather have a good time to shoot for than have us punters standing around patting each other on the backs,” Josh said. “And that,” I replied, “is the difference between me and you."

• Walker annihilated us. He was coming from sea level and had a nasty cold. He thought the finish was higher than it was, and we were collapsed in the snow, hacking, yelling up at him to stop. He’s such a nice guy, too, that I think he felt bad.

• The fun thing about being a punter is that you get better every time. Walker who? Yeah, we’ve all crushed his time by now. I mean, Walker’s a great athlete, I won’t take that away from him. But it’s got to hurt, losing to a 40-something half-crippled dude with a mullet. Walker: “I know I am getting old and slow when gimpy can beat me up the hill. Sheesh....” Me: “Anytime you want to put on the big-boy pants and make a return trip, Walker, we’ll be waiting. Unless you’re scared.”

• Overheard by one of our lady friends: “Can’t you guys do anything without it being a race?”

• Well, at least this race is safe. Awhile back, me and Scotty D raced the Triple Schmack Challenge. It was a linkup of three multi-pitch routes at Lumpy Ridge, trailhead-to-trailhead. Free solo. No rope. For time. (In the interest of safety, however, we never raced together.) Racing for Darwin, baby. We did have two rules:

1. No dying.

2. No dying.

Neither of us died, so that was good. But one day, Scotty put a massive hurt on my best time. “This whole racing thing is stupid. I’m just in it for the experience,” I said, and bowed out.

• Gear makes a huge difference. First, Josh borrowed a lightweight setup. We all set PRs (we’re similar boot size). Then I borrowed the RSTs and Spitfires, and they rule. PR. If some RSRs and Stratos’ come in from demo, those guys are in trouble.

• We don’t have spandex suits, but we strip down to our “speed suits” before racing – our long underwear. A most unfortunate sight for families frequenting the sledding hill at Hidden Valley.

• The ranger issue. A couple of the climbing rangers caught wind of the Prestigious HVTT. Then one of them smoked our best time. A ranger? We got beat by a ranger?!? That’s worse than getting “chicked,” as Josh puts it (Sari, pleeeeease come out and destroy Josh’s time!).

Anyway, so yesterday I went against my standard M.O. of never setting goals – since I don’t want to be disappointed if I don’t achieve them – and hit the course, working on technique, doing comparisons and analysis on different sections with my heart rate monitor, intent on improving. Striving for a modicum of competency. Even if I’m slow, and even though I truly hope my friends go fast (don’t tell them I said that). Because I figure the better I can be, the better my chances of beating them. Really though, I’m just in it for the experience.

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